Thursday, May 1, 2008

GTA 4 - best game ever? Hardly.

So like every one else in the gaming world I picked up a copy of Rockstar's newest: Grand Theft Auto IV. I enjoyed the third but never had the time to play Vice City or San Andreas but I had high hopes. I fired up the XBOX 360 version (gotta love those achievements) and started playing.

Even though I'm not a hugh fan of crime dramas, I still liked how I was drawn into the world and its characters. After the first hour of play, I felt like it was more Grand Theft Buying Clothes and Grand Theft Driving Really Slow. Which I was totally fine with as I was getting comfortable with the controls and started to explore around a little further than the ghetto I started off in.

I started to get a bit bothered by the constant "nagging" of my cousin and actually felt bad when I went on a date rather than answered his cries for help (I chalk that up as to me accidently hitting the wrong button on the phone and not knowing how to backtrack to call him back and get directions.)

So, the second time he called, I rushed to save him from the two loan sharks that were pummelling him on a basketball court. While I found the combat a bit sluggish, I was still able to beat them down. And then we rushed to the car to chase after another guy.

Here's where the game went completely in the shitter for me. Because I had been following the story, there had been no previous opportunity for me to drive like a madman. I actually drove pretty slowly when I had my date in the car or when I had to go to my cousin's. Because I was slowly working my way into the game, I didn't feel like I had the chance to put the pedal to the metal and learn how to drive fast. I'm no strange to driving like an idiot - I've played Crackdown, Burnout Paradise and a few other open world games that feature driving - but in GTA IV the combination of a car that handled like shit, a street full of obstacles and traffic AND a time limit that was made even worse by my cousing yelling in my ear every ten seconds was a convergence of factors that made me end of wrecking my car or losing the thug I was chasing. What was worse was each time I lost, I had to go back and re-fight those two loan sharks and the more I learned about fighting and timing blocks, the more sluggish the fighting felt. After seven times I threw down the controller (something I NEVER do) and had to go play some Team Fortress 2 to cool down.

What pisses me off so much is that a game that has been almost universally praised for how perfect it is doesn't have features like pretty common features like dynamic difficulty, alternate pathing that if you know a better route, you can cut the driver off at the pass or even a checkpoint that doesn't require you to fight the two goons over and over again. I'm sorry that's just sloppy design and not worth of a "perfect" score.

I'll give GTA IV another try, but I've already felt like I've seen the emperor's new clothes and it'll never be "perfect" in my mind.


bwana said...

I'm getting my copy this week, hand-carried by a friend from teh Statez. I'll keep an eye out for the things you've mentioned. I'm really, really a fan of the GTA series, and I'm hoping they've evolved the game past pretty visuals.

GTA III was groundbreaking, but Vice City and San Andreas were more about making the game bigger and adding more little curlycue details to existing gameplay rather than trying anything new with the formula. Surprisingly, Pandemic's Mercenaries and Rockstar's own BULLY had a lot more innovation in them than either of the two GTA III sequels.

I'm hopeful.

Unknown said...

I played GTA 4 for the first time this weekend on my friend's PS3. I have to say that my expectations weren't met. The first negative play experience (or lack there of) was the fact that Rockstar somehow managed to let their game that has been in development for 18 years release with a bug that prevents the game from getting past the main loading screen. After about 20-30 minutes of trying to get the frikkin game to start it finally loaded up.

At first I was very impressed by the visuals and thought to myself, "this game has come a long way". However, this quickly changed as soon as I got into a car. The fun and easy driving system that GTA has been known for has turned into a crappy, frustrating experience. The aspect they added into it where your character flies out of the windshield when you wreck is hilarious for the first 5 minutes, but then it just gets frustrating. If you have a big wreck you have to restart. Is adding a new level of frustration into a game really a "next gen" thing to do?

Also, while in past GTA games you could easily brush off of other cars while still being in control of your car, but now it seems like the slightest nudge sends you rolling. Yes, this is more realistic than past GTA games. But do I play GTA games for realism? No, if I wanted realism I would go and get in wrecks with my own car. I want some easy, fun, non-frustrating destruction. This doesn't seem to be what GTA IV has delivered.